Family GPs allowed to request a wider range of specialist tests for their patients

Scans are one test that GPs can now ask for directly for patients.
Scans are one test that GPs can now ask for directly for patients. / SUR
  • The regional public health service (SAS) has changed its rules to include tests such as scans, ultrasounds and complex blood tests in order to take pressure off hospital consultants

Local GPs in public health centres will soon be able to ask for a whole range of additional diagnostic tests for their patients that previously had to be arranged through specialist consultants at hospitals.

In practice, this means that earlier results of tests, including ultrasounds, X-rays, CAT scans, MRIscans, cardiac echos, detailed blood analysis and others, will improve the ability of frontline GPs to make a diagnosis and shorten waiting times for patients, who until now have had to be referred to a hospital consultant first. The measure is expected to be in place from the middle of September.

GPs have been calling for more access to tests for some time, saying that they are trained enough to handle them. The Andalusian public health service (SAS) is allowing tests to be requested where doctors have clear guidelines laid out on how to deal with different conditions and is working to ensure that these are standardised across all parts of the region and that there is on-going coordination between primary health care in the centres and the specialist units in the hospitals.

Besides this move, which is designed to take pressure off busy hospital outpatients departments, the SAS has announced a series of other measures to bolster local primary care.

The SAS is planning to carry out improvements to the operating theatres in most health centres and expand the facility to those that don’t have them so that more minor surgery can be carried out locally.

The health serviceis also working on plans to increase the amount of one-stop doctors’ appointments, where the number of visits in which patients get a diagnosis and treatment plan at the same time is increased.

Officials are also reviewing the amount of patients each doctor is responsible for in their local catchment area where they see that local conditions mean that more doctors are needed to cope with fewer people. They will look to recruit more doctors and nurses if needed.

Moreover, the programme to give chronic patients a personalised treatment plan will be updated, drawing in not just GPs and health-centre nurses, but also social workers and other medical support personnel into a small, virtual team to support the patient.

To introduce all these measures, 12 working groups have been studying the proposed changes in order to start to roll them out from the middle of September.